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Class Notes: New web service promises to connect Vancouver parents, students, teachers

The first item listed if you search “BCeSIS” on YouTube is a video called “Hitler Tries to Use BCeSIS.
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The first item listed if you search “BCeSIS” on YouTube is a video called “Hitler Tries to Use BCeSIS.”

The video, using a common YouTube meme substituting fake subtitles in a scene from the German movie Downfall, depicts a highly frustrated Hitler cursing about being locked out of the $89-million student information computer system that teachers have used to enter student marks since 2005.

“Could somebody not have figured out that 50,000 teachers might want to use it at the same #*%@$ time?” Hitler cries.

Frustrated teachers and administrators might be happy to know schools will begin to implement a new system next April that the Ministry of Education says will be much easier to use.

The provincial government announced its new web-based service called ConnectEdBC last week. Fujitsu Consulting (Canada) Inc. will deliver the online platform that’s meant to provide parents, students and teachers real-time access to student records, assignments and learning resources.

The service will allow parents to communicate securely with teachers and school staff, students to submit work online and teachers to collaborate and share materials across schools or districts. ConnectEdBC will maintain a single record for each student from pre-kindergarten to graduation.

“As reflected in the vision of B.C.’s Education Plan, parents will now be able to get more involved in their child’s education because they will be able to get up to date and time information on how their child is doing in school,” an email from the Ministry of Education to the Courier states. The ministry provided an email response instead of providing a spokesperson to answer questions.

Vancouver School Board chairperson Patti Bacchus hopes ConnectEdBC will help the VSB better track students who leave its system and those who return.

The capital and annual operating cost for ConnectEdBC is approximately the same as BCeSIS. The value of the government’s 12-year contract with Fujitsu is up to $9.4 million per year. The charge to school districts will remain at $10 per student per year.

The new service will be built around Follett Corporation’s Aspen Student Information System software, which the government says has been used extensively in the United States and U.K. and serves more than one million students. The government reports teachers, counsellors, district staff and administrators, principals and vice principals helped develop requirements and evaluate proposals for a new system.

Implementation is projected to run until early 2016, after which BCeSIs will be decommissioned.

Bacchus says the district’s limited bandwidth could pose a challenge to smooth use of ConnectEdBC.

She hopes the district won’t face any additional costs related the implementation of the new system such having to pay for substitute teachers to cover for those receiving training.

The government press release states the Ministry of Education will make sure schools “have the training and tools they need to implement the new service effectively, with minimum disruption to users.”

The company that took over from the operation that had developed and supported BCeSIS announced in 2010 that it would no longer support the software.